Nova Esperança offers no future for Liege Neves as a gangrat and daughter of the favelas. With one goal in mind—to save her younger sister and ailing grandfather from a difficult and hopeless future—Liege's only option is the Federation Navy. Scoring higher on her entrance exams than anyone had expected, Liege enlists as a corpsman and hopes for a safe career that will allow her to get her Avó the help he requires.
The needs of the Navy always take precedence, however, and instead of an expected hospital billet, Liege's life takes a dangerous turn when her first set of orders is to the Fleet Marine Corps instead. After being trained to heal and save lives, she is suddenly issued a weapon and thrust into combat to defend the Federation. Face-to-face with war, destruction, and the probability to both save and take lives, Liege must find the strength, discipline, and courage within herself to protect her family and brothers-in-arms and earn the time-honored title of "Doc."
•Some people have a voice that makes you sit up and take notice, and Col. Brazee is one of them. Whether in conversation or fiction, he always has interesting stories to tell, and he knows how to tell them to maximum effect. I first met him at a 20BooksTo50K meetup during Nebula Awards weekend in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—and he didn't hesitate to befriend me. Since then, I've gotten to know him and his writing even better, and leaving him out of this StoryBundle was not an option. His military experience has served him well in writing tales of conflict among the stars, and I have no doubt that Corpsman will give you all the battlefield thrills you expect from a science fiction war story by this two-time Nebula nominee. – Robert Jeschonek
"Very entertaining, unlike other sci-fi Marine military stories, this one nails the corpsman, especially the real life shock that many HM's have when getting orders to the Marines via FMS. Nice add allowing "authorized" combat also. Only downside is now I know there are MANY more books to read."– Amazon Review
"Bravo Zulu (BZ) is the military code for a job well done. And a resounding Bravo Zulu is what Col. Brazee deserves for his latest Women of the Marine Corps books."– Amazon Review
"I have added to my list of must have books, worth the money! This is with Weber, Flint, Cherryh, Ringo, and Cornwall!"– Amazon Review
"Col. Brazee knows Marines and he knows battle. It's too bad there isn't a 50 Star rating because this definitely deserves it. This is pure military science fiction with the emphasis on military. Semper Fi."– Amazon Review
CFSS IMPERIAL STABIAE
Hospitalman Apprentice Liege Neves tried to hug the bulkhead of the small corridor leading into the grand concourse. The report of automatic weapons sounded from just ahead of her. She gripped her M99, her palms sweating, making the stock of her weapon slippery.
"Stick on my ass, Neves," Sergeant Vinter snarled at her.
We're going up there? Liege thought, wondering how they'd make it through the heavy firing unscathed.
This was a far cry from the basic fire and maneuver she'd been taught at FMTC. There, they'd had wide open spaces with plenty of room to hit the deck and find something to get behind. Here on the Confederation of Free States cruise ship, there was nowhere to take cover. She could see kinetic rounds—large kinetic rounds—ricocheting off the bulkhead of the grand concourse, not three meters to her front.
Already, Second Fire Team, led by Corporal Wheng, was out in the concourse, exposed. Liege could follow the fight on her comms, but it was all too much to take in, and she was simply focusing on her squad leader.
This was not what Liege envisioned nine months ago when she enlisted. She was supposed to be in a hospital somewhere, learning her craft while working normal hours in a safe environment. She'd never planned on being with the Marines while they took back a cruise ship from pirates. Heck, she'd thought that space pirates were just Hollybolly fantasies. She'd never dreamed they existed in real life.
But they did, and what was supposed to be a simple show-the-flag deployment for Sirie 3's Freedom Days celebration had switched to a live mission. Pirates had taken over the cruise ship, and as the FS Mount Kester, with the embarked Golf Company, was the closest military force, the ship and Marines had been diverted and given the snap mission.
The Mount Kester had demanded that the pirates surrender, of course, but as expected, the pirates had just laughed in response. They knew the penalty for piracy. The Confederation might not have capital punishment, but the Federation did, and the ship was taken in Federation space. Since they wouldn't surrender, and with civilian lives at stake (and with Bacchus Lines wanting to recover their boutique cruise ship without damage), it was up to Golf Company to board and root out the pirates.
So, HA Neves found herself flat on the deck of a billion-credit luxury cruise ship while 20 or so pirates tried to take as many Marines with them to hell as they could. The thought that they might blow the ship in suicidal defiance was heavy on her mind as well.
"Corporal Wheng, on three, give us cover," Sergeant Vinter passed on the squad circuit. "First and Third, you're up. We need get to the lounge."
Liege focused on her small helmet display. She could see the ship's diagram, but it didn't make too much sense to her. She stopped trying to interpret it. She'd just follow the sergeant and leave it at that.
"Get ready, Neves," she said over her shoulder, then back on the circuit, "One. . .two. . .three!"
A sudden increase of fire from out in the concourse provided them cover as the other two fire teams rushed out, followed by Sergeant Vinter and Liege. Liege's mind was almost numb as she burst out of the side corridor and followed the sergeant to the left. Sparks glanced off the bulkhead less than a meter to her right. At least one of the pirates had not been forced to take cover from Second Team's volume of fire.
Liege's logic told her she should stop and get out of the line of fire, but her body didn't cooperate. Almost on autopilot, she followed the sergeant. First Team peeled off into a small alcove where a red plush velvet couch that reeked of luxury took up most of the space.
Why the hell am I noticing the furniture? she wondered.
She felt displaced, almost as if she was floating above her body and simply a spectator to the fight.
Third Team and Sergeant Vinter charged forward, firing their own weapons. Liege hadn't fired her M99 yet. It barely registered with her that she had it, but she also knew that if she fired now, she'd probably hit the sergeant.
"Fuck!" someone shouted as a Marine from Third stumbled.
Liege's heart leapt in her throat, but the Marine kept going, and there wasn't a call for a corpsman. The EVA suits they were wearing didn't have nearly the protection of the skins and bones they normally wore into combat. But unlike the skins, the EVA suits kept them alive in the vacuum of space, and if the pirates blew the ship, those not caught in the blast should be fine. It seemed a fair trade-off.
Of course, unless they had access to emergency hoods, the passengers wouldn't fare as well if the ship was breached.
Sergeant Vinter dodged to her right, and for a moment, Liege was alone in the charge, facing whatever pirates were before her. She posted her left leg forward and bolted to the right as well, diving for cover behind another large sofa. An instant later, rounds tore into the top of the couch, bits of fluff flying off it to flurry down around her like red snowflakes.
She'd landed on Vinter's legs, and the sergeant kicked her off to rise and fire out a string of darts. Liege could see the sergeant's mouth working, but as nothing was coming over the squad circuit, Liege knew she must be on the line with the lieutenant.
A vibration shook the deck under her as a low rumble reached them. For a moment, Liege thought the pirates had blown the ship. But as her suit sensors indicated a normal atmosphere, she realized she was just too wound up. Whatever had caused the vibration had probably been instigated by the Marines.
Liege knew that there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that 20 pirates could stand up to a Marine rifle company, but that was the big picture. In her little universe, an unknown number of pirates were facing her squad of 13 Marines and one very raw, very nervous Navy corpsman.
Liege had been merely along for the ride up to now. She knew she had to do something. Looking down, she clicked her M99's selector off safe. Liege rolled off her back, and taking a deep breath, rose above the top of the couch and fired a wild volley in the general direction of the barricaded pirates. She doubted that she'd hit anyone, but at least she had contributed.
And she felt good about it. Some of her nervousness fled as she had pulled the trigger and felt the slight recoil of her rifle. She ducked back down out of the direct line of fire.
"Listen up. We've got help coming, but we need to fix the pirates in place. Keep up a steady stream of fire, but no heroics! Don't needlessly expose yourself!" Sergeant Vinter passed on the squad circuit.
Almost instantly after the sergeant finished, someone shouted out in pain. The EVA suits' displays were not nearly as sophisticated as the normal battle AIs, but the avatars of each Marine were the same. One of the bright blue avatars switched to the light blue of a wounded Marine. Lance Corporal Seth Hanoshi had been hit. It took a moment for Liege to figure out from her helmet display just where Seth was; he was not more than two meters from where she was lying.
Liege peered around the corner of the couch; Seth was writhing on the deck out in the corridor, exposed. He was clutching his left thigh, and from under his gauntleted hands, bright blood ran out in little rivulets along the polyweave of his suit. Liege expected to see his body stitched with more rounds being fired by the pirates.
She was moving before she knew what she was doing.
"Cover her!" Sergeant Vinter shouted over the net.
She scrambled on her hands and knees in the bulky EVA suit, reaching out to grab the ankle of Seth's outstretched wounded leg. She tried to pull him back, but her knees flailed and slipped on the slick deck. Expecting to be hit at any moment, she swung her legs around, and sitting on her butt, she placed the grip-sole bottoms of her feet on either side of Seth's leg. Pushing out, the traction of the grip-soles allowed her to inchworm back on her butt, pulling a screaming Seth with her.
With three pulls, she was behind the edge of the couch. Two more, and Seth was under cover as well.
Liege looked up at Sergeant Vinter for orders, but the sergeant was on the command circuit again, fighting the battle.
Seth was rolling back and forth in pain.
"Help me, Neves!"
There was blood, a lot of it. Too much. Liege could see that a round had taken out seven or eight centimeters of Seth's thigh, and the femoral artery had been severed. He could bleed out in a minute or less.
Liege felt nausea starting to take ahold of her, and she had to fight it back down. She had to act.
She'd done this before, just not with a real person. If she failed with Sick Sam, the nickname for the medical simulacrum at FTMC, it was merely a down-check, and she'd have another chance. If she failed here, Seth would die.
Just like with Sick Sam, she tried to convince herself. No different.
Liege slung her medpack around so she could access it. Pulling out the first pressure patch, a Number 2, she held it up to the damage on Seth's thigh before dropping it and pulling out a Number 4. She started to open it before realizing she had to clear the site. Unsealing the tool pocket, Liege grabbed the scissors and cut away the fabric of Seth's EVA. She blanched; the mangled flesh was more vivid than she expected. Unsealing the pressure patch, Liege positioned it over the damage, then pressed it home.
The patch molded itself to the open wound, and Seth screamed out in pain. Liege almost jumped back in panic. Sick Sam was programmed to react and even talk with the corpsmen-in-training, but he'd never screamed like that when pressure pack was applied.
The pressure patch was only a temporary measure, a field expedient version of an old-fashioned tourniquet. Liege was not done. Next came the nano-injection. Using the scissors, she cut open the fabric over the thigh on his right leg and slammed home the Series 2 injector. Immediately, a cocktail of drugs and nanobots—mostly consisting of coagulatory, infection-fighting, and construction bots—would be starting to course through his body, rushing to close the major arterial damage while building and re-routing bypasses to get blood to Seth's lower leg. Liege could take the leg off if she needed to, sealing off the stump before putting Seth into stasis, but that would increase regen time. Even ten years before, that would have been her standard of care. But with the latest research on BRC, the "Brick," regen was now avoided when it could be. Seth had suffered significant trauma, so he was probably in for a good long stint in regen, but that would be up to the medical officers. Liege was simply there to keep Seth alive until then.
She took an injector of Hemocaps and applied the needle into his carotid. The injector wouldn't make up for the volume of blood loss, but the artificial red blood cells, far more efficient at transporting oxygen than the real thing, would be a tremendous help in stabilizing the lance corporal.
"Do you need pain meds?" she asked Seth.
"Fuck yeah, Neves!"
She gave his vitals a quick read. He was shocky and in pain, but tolerating his condition quite well, given the circumstances. Still, he had lost quite a bit of blood. Considering that, she decided on the morphanimine. It was not the most effective pain suppressant, but blood loss contraindicated more effective meds.
Rounds hit the couch again, sending another flurry of red flakes down on the two of them. She casually brushed them off Seth's exposed right thigh and gave him the injection. Within seconds, Seth started to relax.
"How is he, Neves?" Sergeant Vinter asked on the P2P.
"He'll be fine. I don't think we need to ziplock him."
"OK, keep me informed."
Ziplocking a Marine was done when he or she was killed and there was hope for a resurrection, or when the Marines was still alive, but the damage was life-threatening. Stasis would give the Marine a much better chance of pulling through. But a small percentage of patients put into stasis never came out, so it was avoided if not necessary. And after reading Seth's vitals, she thought he didn't need it.
"Are my balls OK?" Seth asked, his voice blurry from the meds, as he reached out and grabbed her hand.
"No, check. I gotta make sure," he said, pulling her hand harder.
The round had hit a good 12 centimeters below his crotch, but Liege complied. The pressure patch was beginning to loosen, a sign that the nanobots were doing their job. Liege lifted up the cut edges of Seth's EVA suit, and looked at his testicles. They were covered in blood, but after a quick check, she could see they were untouched.
"No problem, Seth. Not even scratched," she said.
Seth's hand slacked as he mumbled, "Oh, thank Saint Elsie."
He started to drift off when an explosion erupted from the direction of the pirates. Liege lunged for her M99 and turned to face what she was sure would be a charge. A flurry of fire sounded, both from the pirates' kinetics and the more whisper-like Marine M99s.
"Cease fire," Sergeant Vinter passed to the squad.
The fight down the corridor continued for another ten or fifteen seconds before petering out.
"First Team, move forward. We've got friendlies there," the squad leader passed.
The team moved forward and clambered over the makeshift barricade, followed by the rest of the squad. Six Marines from Third Platoon were checking the bodies of four pirates. A hatch was hanging askew on one hinge. The Third Platoon Marines had obviously used it for egress, coming into the corridor behind the pirates and their barricade.
Liege took over. Two of the pirates were permanent KIAs, their heads destroyed. One KIA needed to be evaluated for a possible resurrection. Liege wasn't sure why as the penalty for piracy was death, but that wasn't up to her.
The final pirate was WIA. He was seriously gut-shot, and Liege didn't give him much hope. She started to move forward to examine him when Sergeant Vinter grabbed her arm. Liege was about to tell her that her duties required her to treat the pirate just as if he was a Marine, but that wasn't what the sergeant wanted. She took Liege's M99, much to the corpsman's chagrin. Liege knew better than to put a weapon within reach of an enemy.
The pirate said nothing, but he glared at Liege when she pulled his hand off his belly. It looked like he'd taken multiple darts that had simply torn him apart. There was nothing much Liege could do. She didn't even bother giving him a shot of nanobots—they wouldn't work in stasis.
The all-clear sounded. The ship had been re-taken.
Liege still had work to do, however. One of the Marines tagged the prisoner with his capture information while she pulled out a ziplock. With assistance, Liege got it around the pirate, and with him still glaring at her, she initiated stasis. Within moments, he was out.
"You need to report to Chief Sou," Sergeant Vinter told her. "He needs all corpsmen to the ship's atrium to take care of the passengers."
"What about Seth?" she asked.
"We'll get him back to Mount Kester," the sergeant said.
Liege could see the location of the atrium on her helmet display. She nodded, then stood up to go.
"Not alone," Sergeant Vinter said, grabbing her arm and stopping her. "We think the ship is secured, but there could be holdouts.
"Corporal Wheng, take your team and escort Doc to the atrium. Wait there until she's done."
Liege looked back for Corporal Wheng when what Sergeant Vinter had just said hit her.
Doc? Not just Neves?
She felt a rush of pride as she realized she'd been accepted by the Marines. No more "Neves," no more "HA." She was "Doc."